Helping NCDOT Recover From Hurricane Florence

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Mike Wayts

Infrastructure Engineer

One of the highlights of Freese and Nichols’ fifth year in North Carolina was landing its first contract with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Under a three-year agreement, Freese and Nichols is available to provide a range of on-call services for NCDOT’s Hydraulics Unit, including:

  • Basic, complete and complex hydrologic & hydraulic (H&H) design
  • A range of activities under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES):
    • Stormwater permit program support
    • Industrial facility compliance and asset inventory
    • Water quality modeling support and total maximum daily load (TMDL) compliance
    • Best management practices (BMP) retrofit site selection and design

It did not take long for Freese and Nichols (FNI) to have an opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities when Hurricane Florence blew through the Carolinas in early September.

The day before Florence’s expected landfall, FNI was among a group of selected consultants standing ready to assist NCDOT staff with its statewide emergency response. Florence made landfall Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and moved through the southeastern part of the state, where the storm dumped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas. The hurricane then traveled along the North Carolina/South Carolina border to Charlotte before turning north through the western part of the state.

After the storm, FNI’s three-member team was involved in NCDOT’s efforts to assess washouts along state-maintained roadways, document damage, estimate repair costs and determine pipe needs. David Webb served as FNI’s Project Manager and worked alongside Lee Williams and Sam Beavans to track incoming pipe recommendation requests from NCDOT personnel.

These requests were populated into a shared spreadsheet that combined detailed information from each of NCDOT’s 14 divisions. Part of FNI’s role was to help expedite pipe recommendations by comparing each damage location to the more than 800 sites identified as washouts during Hurricane Matthew two years earlier. Through this screening, the NCDOT Hydraulics Unit was able to pull previous calculations, design notes, photos and recommendations from the shelf to expedite a reevaluation of these sites so that materials could be ordered, and roadways opened more quickly.

FNI referenced the spreadsheet daily for new Florence damage site locations and completed the screening process. Hurricane Florence sites were also populated in ArcGIS and sent to the NCDOT GIS Unit each day for their use. In the first weeks after the storm, dozens of repair requests were rolling in from NCDOT Division staff every day. To date, 445 Florence-damaged sites have been identified along stream crossings on NCDOT roadways. 

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Mike Wayts, PE, CFM, is a Vice President/Principal and North Carolina Division Manager.